Define and explain the concepts of Natural Law and Contractarianism. – Give examples on situations applied to both theories – Give examples of philosophers who supported those theories Express a personal opinnion 2-3 pages
Natural law and contractarianism are two prominent theories in the field of moral and political philosophy. These theories seek to provide a framework for understanding the principles that underlie ethical behavior and the basis for social and political institutions. In this essay, we will explore the concepts of natural law and contractarianism, examining their key ideas and providing examples of situations to which each theory can be applied. Furthermore, we will highlight some influential philosophers who have supported these theories, and conclude with a personal opinion on these approaches to ethics and politics.
Natural law theory posits that there are moral principles that are inherent in nature, and that these principles are discoverable through reason. According to natural law theorists, such as Thomas Aquinas, the principles of natural law are not dependent on human consensus or cultural norms, but are instead grounded in objective truths about human nature and the nature of the world. These principles are considered to be binding on all individuals, irrespective of their cultural or social context.
To illustrate the application of natural law theory, let us consider the situation of a person contemplating the act of stealing. According to natural law theory, the principle of respecting property rights is derived from the inherent value of private property and the recognition of individual autonomy. Thus, the natural law theorist would argue that stealing is inherently wrong because it violates these principles. In this way, natural law theory provides a universal framework for evaluating the morality of actions.
John Locke, on the other hand, proposes a theory known as contractarianism, which focuses on social and political arrangements. According to contractarianism, the legitimacy of political authority and ethical obligations arise from voluntary agreements made among rational individuals. The social contract, as envisioned by Locke and other contractarian thinkers, establishes a framework for individuals to enforce their rights and protect their interests.
To illustrate contractarianism, we can imagine a society in which individuals come together and agree to abide by certain rules and laws. The citizens of this society, by entering into this social contract, voluntarily give up certain freedoms and submit to the authority of a government in order to secure the benefits of social cooperation and protection of their rights. Contractarian thinkers, such as John Rawls, argue that the principles derived from this social contract should ensure fairness and justice for all members of society.
The natural law and contractarianism theories have been supported by a number of influential philosophers throughout history. Among the proponents of natural law theory, Thomas Aquinas stands as one of the most prominent figures. Aquinas argued that natural law is derived from the divine order and that it provides a framework for moral and political decision-making. In his famous work, “Summa Theologica,” Aquinas explores the relationship between natural law and moral principles, outlining a comprehensive ethical system rooted in natural law.
On the other hand, contractarianism has been advanced by philosophers such as John Locke and John Rawls. Locke’s work, “Two Treatises of Government,” lays out a theory of government grounded in the consent of individuals. He argues that legitimate political authority derives from the consent of the governed and that individuals have a right to revolution if their rights are violated by the government. Rawls, in his influential book “A Theory of Justice,” develops a contractarian approach to distributive justice, arguing for principles that ensure fairness and equality in society.
In conclusion, natural law and contractarianism offer two distinct approaches to ethical and political philosophy. Natural law theory posits that moral principles are discoverable through reason and are grounded in objective truths about human nature and the world. Contractarianism, on the other hand, argues that ethical obligations and political authority derive from voluntary agreements among rational individuals. While both theories provide valuable frameworks for understanding ethical behavior, each has its strengths and limitations. It is up to the individual to critically evaluate these theories and determine their own perspective on the nature of ethics and politics.